25.8.13

Get me the Enna out of here!

Dragging my wretched rucksack down to the port in Naples, I was completely clueless as to where to board my ferry.  Turns out the Italians aren't big on signposting.  Struggling along, attempting not to get crushed by the oncoming lorries, I saw a face I recognised.

It was one of the cute bearded guys from the hostel.  I'd seen him around, but never actually spoken to him, what with my time being absorbed mostly by American men.  I strolled up to him & thankfully, he recognised me.  Turns out he's Argentinian & really rather attractive.  Bonus points were accrued when I found out we were booked onto the same ferry & had both bought a seat.


The two of us boarded the ferry, dumped our bags & went for a stroll around the ship.  I'd been advised to purchase some food from the supermercato before boarding, but, as I'd over indulged on cannolis earlier in the day, my stomach wasn't up for grocery shopping.  Unfortunately, this was now backfiring, as all the vending machines were out-of-order & the food available in the ship's restaurants was ├╝ber expensive.

Argentina bought me a can of Coke & we stood out on the deck, with nothing but the stars visible.  It certainly made for a romantic setting.  The ferry journey was eleven hours long & for about the first four, Argentina & I talked, non-stop.  A little part of me was, of course, starting to day dream about the possibility of eloping to South America.  Was this what I was meant to find?


When the cold set in, Argentina & I headed inside to our seats.  There was one channel available on the TV & it was showing a Sylvester Stallone film, dubbed in Italian.  Starting to fall asleep with boredom, Argentina went in for the kiss.  This was it...& never have I been so disappointed!  Lets just say, our styles were clashing on an extreme level!  My South American dreams were dashed in one tongue poke.

Now stuck with a guy I no longer had feelings for & couldn't revert to being 'just friends', my night's sleep was awkward to say the least.  These Argentinian guys get very hands on.  I'd never been so grateful to see sunrise!  We then had to wait a painful hour before we could get off the ship & then, once again clueless, I followed Argentina to his hostel.  I felt rather guilty when he carried my bag for me.


The American woman at reception told me that the next bus from where we were in Palermo to my hostel in Enna, wasn't until one pm, which meant I had several hours to wait.  Leaving our bags at the hostel, Argentina & I went for a stroll down to the station to check out buses & then took a stroll through a food market, which trailed round winding back streets.

Eventually the time passed, the temperatures began to sear & Argentina walked the ten minutes down to the station with me, to see me off.  I felt rather guilty when he selflessly took my rucksack once again & carried all two tonnes of it on his back, all the way down there.  Once there he waited the hour for my bus, kissed me goodbye when it arrived & then left.  To think, if it wasn't for his erratic tongue actions, we could have been a thing.  [sigh]

I slept the hour & a half on the bus & when I woke, nearly didn't get off at my stop, as once again, Italy's lack of signposting really doesn't make things very clear.  Once off the bus, I started to question whether I'd landed myself in the middle of nowhere.  All that surrounded me was a bar, a petrol station & residential houses.  Things weren't looking great.


I headed for the bar & the proprietors told me to go back to the bus stop & wait for the next bus to the top of Enna.  Off I went, dragging my bag back to the shelter.  I'm not one for buses in the UK, so I can't say that I have great skills when it comes to bus timetables, but the Italian timetables are even less clear, not least because they are in a language I lack the skills to understand.

After waiting & waiting & some further waiting, I eventually found a ticket office open & thankfully the guy working there spoke English.  He Google mapped my hostel & told me which bus to get & where to get off.  Off I went, hopped on the bus & held on for dear life, as it sped round the road's bends with the door wide open!


Getting off at one of the piazzas, I dragged my bag up the cobbled hill, aimlessly trying to find my hostel.  I came across a guy in his fifties & tried to extract some directions from him.  He kept pointing up the hill & going 'bella bella'.  Off I trod up this hill, getting hot & bothered & losing patience.  Suddenly I realised this guy was following me.  Naively I presumed he was leading me to the hostel, but no, he led me to his car.

Being incredibly stupid, tired & just plain lazy, I actually made the error of accepting a lift with him.  This man did not speak one word of English & once off up the hill, I realised this was fatal, when he started to touch my leg.  'This is it, I'm going to be raped & murdered' I thought.  He pulled up outside a large castle & I was pretty sure this wasn't the hostel.  Getting out of the car, he indicated he wanted a kiss of gratitude.  I leaned in & gave him a peck on the cheek.  Nope, he wanted a kiss on the lips.  Yeah, I don't think so sunshine.  I grabbed my bag from the backseat & ran off back down the hill mentally slapping myself!  Never again!


After an eternity, I eventually found my hostel & low & behold, it happened to be two minutes away from where I got off the bus!  I checked in & found that the hostel was seemingly empty of people.  Enna is clearly not a great tourist attraction.  Definitely thinking I'd made a fatal error in picking this location, I headed out & grabbed some gelato.  After which I went straight to the only supermercato that was open & stocked up on junk food.  I needed comforting.

The next day an English guy & a very excitable Chinese woman arrived.  Both were staying in the mixed dorm across the hall from me.  The English guy was a teacher, currently living in Dubai.  The two of us went off to explore all the wonders that Enna had to offer.  Which unfortunately, wasn't very much.  There was a castle, which was more of a ruin & took two minutes to view & a giant rock, with views of the whole town, which we sat atop of & watched as the sunset went down.  It was pretty beautiful.  We later went for dinner together at this tiny cave like place, which was seemingly someone's house-turned-restaurant.  The food was, unfortunately, pretty mediocre.


The next day the Teacher & I took a bus to the next town, in order to avoid complete boredom.  We arrived about one or two in the afternoon & the entire town was desolate.   In Sicily & most likely any non-touristic part of Italy, everything shuts down until about four o'clock.  Everyone retires to their homes to cook, nap, generally relax & avoid the heat.

The Teacher & I strolled around, attempting to find points of interest.  There was a beautiful church, which had been locked up & abandoned.  A nunnery, which unfortunately, we couldn't go into, so we walked around the graveyard instead.  (Something very odd about taking an interest in the graves of deceased strangers.)  There was a cave.  I started to think we were better off in Enna.


As four o'clock came, people started to emerge from their houses & the two of us went to one of the two bars in the town & got some much needed gelato!  Soon after we got the bus back to Enna & I started to wonder if I should have left Naples after all.

Back at the hostel the Teacher & I made some pasta together for dinner & then afterwards we went & had some vino on the balcony with the Chinese woman.  The Teacher, looking a little glazed over, began to be a little too friendly with me.  Rubbing my back when he thought I was cold & staring at me intently.  This was not a good sign.  I am well known for my dislike of people touching me & he was making me feel rather uncomfortable.

I made my excuses & headed for bed, only to have him follow me!  Panicking that he may go in for a kiss, I started cleaning my teeth in the doorway.  Thankfully, he eventually left, unfortunately, I had made plans to go to the beach with him the next morning.  This was obviously pre-vino!

Come the morning I ignored my phone & slept through my alarm.  Sadly he came into my room to wake me up, so I was forced to make my excuses & managed to get out of going.  He seemed annoyed.  I was relieved he would be gone for the day.  I spent my day eating gelato in the piazza & attempting to learn Italian.  There were precisely two people in Enna that spoke English, which meant I had to consult my phrase book every time I went to buy a slice of pizza.

The next day I was determined to leave Enna, so I packed up my rucksack, checked out of the hostel & headed up the hill to the bus station.  Unfortunately, it was a Sunday & there were limited buses.  I'd been emailing the farm, I was heading to, all day & hadn't received a response.  Eventually, I managed to pull over a cyclist, who pulled over a bus & the bus driver, who spoke no English whatsoever, managed to inform me that the buses were running regularly the next day & gave me a timetable.

So, off I went, back down the bloody hill, back to the hostel & checked in for another night.  The Chinese woman had had a friend arrive earlier in the day & the two of them were also aiming to leave the next day, so they insisted on me eating dinner with them, as they wanted to cook up the rest of the food they had in the fridge.  They were both very good cooks & managed to whip up some really nice Chinese food.  Just before serving, The Teacher arrived back from his day out cycling & he too joined us for dinner.  It was mildly awkward between us.


The next day, I was finally ready to leave Enna, for good this time!  The Chinese woman had left early in the morning, but her friend, The Teacher & I all headed to the bus station, to get the bus together, as we were all going to Catania.  The three of us boarded the bus & as it trundled on through the town, I was really happy to be leaving.

x

10.8.13

I'm having a relationship with my pizza.

After spending an entire night in Schipol airport, attempting to sleep on a bench, whilst my flight got delayed & delayed, I finally made it to Naples.  Unfortunately, having wrapped up in jeans, for the air conditioned setting I'd come from, I failed to have the foresight to change my attire, before leaving Naples airport.

I stepped out into sweltering heat & whilst I've always been quite confident in my Italian language skills, suddenly I realised how little I knew, as I approached people to ask for directions.  Having nothing but a few screen shots to guide me, I pointed avidly at my phone, in the hope that someone could send me in the right direction.



Two of the men working outside the airport pointed to a bus & ushered me to get on.  I dragged my rucksack over the road to the bus & then proceeded once again to gain advice on where to go.  The bus driver told me to get on & then get off at the next stop.  So I did.  Only the next stop seemed even more confusing & further from where I was aiming for.

Three bus rides later, I was on the right street.  Sweat pouring off me & my jeans sticking to my skin.  I walked down the hill, following the map I had on my phone, then got told to go back up the hill by the guy in the local pizzeria, when I couldn't find the road I was looking for.  Then another guy on my way back up the road, told me it was by a church down an alleyway.  Choosing not to believe him, I carried on walking back up the hill.  At the top, another guy told me to go back down, take a left & go up yet another hill.



By the time I'd managed to drag my bag to the top, I realised it wasn't the right road.  Ready to give up & melt into the floor, an old man approached me & told me to go back down & head for the alleyway the earlier guy had suggested.  Muttering to myself, I headed back down the road, into the alleyway & there, next to the church, was the bloody hostel.  I arrived soaked in sweat & headed straight for a shower!  Never been more grateful for a cold shower in all my life.

Within a minute of being in the hostel, I made my first friend in Naples.  A young guy from California, who'd been traveling for a little while.  We walked into the old town together for a look around.  The buildings in Naples are all crumbly & battered & the streets littered with garbage.  In essence, I think this is roughly what I had expected from Naples.



Every few streets, you come across a piazza, centered around a monument & always with a beautiful church.  Through the lanes there are endless shops selling tiny hand crafted figurines.  These stores are often small & every space is covered in an array of tiny people & animals.  Makes your eyes boggle at the sight of them.

That evening California & I sat in the hostel's garden, with two Parisian girls.  It was a Saturday night & the hostel got very busy, both with guests & people from outside.  There was a little sausage dog with a bandana wrapped around his neck, who ran around, attempting to extract food from people.  Made me miss my Pig.



The next day, California left for Venice & I made a new friend; a guy from New York.  Young & enthusiastic, he'd been cycling round Europe for about a month.  We too went into the old town & determined to taste a true Naples pizza, stopped at a tiny pizzeria in the lanes.  The pizzas were only €4 each & tasted amazing.  This was truly Naples pizza!  The only thing that bugged me was paying to sit down.  In Italy, they charge you a cover fee to sit & eat in a restaurant or cafe.

After filling ourselves on pizza, we headed down to the port & walked along, until we got to a tiny beach.  I took off my sandals & went in for a dip.  The water was filthy & there were families all in their swimwear, wading around.  If it hadn't been so incredibly hot, I wouldn't have gone in, but it was so damn cooling!  Although, once a tiny crab started jerking towards me & then I saw a rather large school of fish, I ran out.  I'm not big on small creatures.



Back in our hostel, we met an English guy from Brighton & two Canadian girls & the five of us went out for pizza, again!  This time I could only manage half.  Two pizzas in one day is kinda pushing it.

The next day New York left for Geneva, Brighton & the Canadians went to Pompeii & so I got the ferry to Capri island.  Everyone kept telling me it was only €20 for the boat, but when I went to buy my ticket they charged me €40!  I handed over the cash, but felt like I was getting the ripoff tourist treatment.




Capri was only forty five minutes on the boat & I slept the whole way there.  Once there I avoided shelling out more money for the funicular & headed up some stairs, in direction of the center.  Unfortunately, the steepness of the stairs, combined with the ridiculous heat, lead to me almost hyperventilating like an idiot & nearly fainting!  It didn't help that I would get to the top & then suddenly there would be more bloody stairs!

Eventually, after nearly forty minutes, I made it to the top.  The views were amazing.  I found a quiet road & followed it all the way down to the beach, on the other side of the island.  There weren't particularly any tourists, just Italians & I just about got a spot on the pebbled beach, right near the waters edge.



For anyone that knows me, it is pretty common knowledge that I have a fear of the sea.  Seaweed under foot.  Fish brushing past my legs.  It all freaks me out!  But, in an attempt to get over my fear, I left my things on the beach, within viewing distance & went into the clear sparkling clean water.  It was the clearest, cleanest water I've ever been in & not one fish in sight.  I fully immersed myself.  Although, I did get out once some of the kids found a jellyfish.  There is a limit.

Heading back up on the bus, I grabbed some gelato & headed back down the stairs.  The thing about Italian ice cream is, it doesn't roll into some perfect ball, it's thick & gloopy & is just scraped & piled high onto a cone.  For €2 you get a small cone & a huge scoop of which ever two flavours you like.  It melts down your hand within a minute of leaving the store & you have to devour it as quick as you can.  My favourite flavour has definitely been Kinder.




On my last day in Naples I tried to prepare myself for moving onto Sicily.  I gathered up my laundry & headed down to reception.  There was this lovely Italian guy who worked in the hostel, who helped me with the machine & rather than charge me the €4.50 fee, let me do my washing for free.  You cannot appreciate how good it is to have clean clothes when you're traveling!

Shortly after, I met a Cuban guy, who was working in the hostel, to pay for his traveling & the two of us took a final trip into town.  I tried a panini napolentani, which is apparently a typical Naples staple.  It's a bit like a bread roll, which ham & cheese inside.  It wasn't amazing.  Then I tried a cannoli.  A hard pastry shell filled with a sweet cream filling.  I wasn't convinced, although, it's meant to be Sicilian, so perhaps I shall try them again in Sicily.


Four days in Naples, was quite sufficient.  Bar perhaps Pompeii & Mount Etna, which didn't come back with rave reviews from the other guests, I feel I experienced most of what Naples had to offer.

x

6.8.13

Damn the Dam!

Leaving the comfort of Guernsey & my famille, I nervously took my flight to Amsterdam on the Monday afternoon.  This was it, I was on my own from now on.

After a seamless flight, my bag & I reached Amsterdam safely & I spent a few hours in the airport, attempting to work out the train ticket machines & follow the instructions to the hostel.  After managing to get on the correct train & get off at Bijlmer Arena A, the nearest stop to my hostel, I realised I hadn't got any clear directions after that & ended up getting lost.  Dragging my case up & down the street, as it wobbled all over the place & constantly fell over, I was already hating on life.  Up stairs, down stairs & then finally, I found the hostel & praise the lord it had a lift!




My previous fear of hostels was definitely unwarranted.  The showers were clean & modern, the other girls in my eight bed room were all really nice & the hostel had a great communal area.  A large corner sofa facing a big screen TV on the wall & a huge collection of DVDs to choose from, led to a few film nights.  I didn't bother with attempting to cook anything in the kitchen, but it was clean & modern.

Not five minutes had passed since I checked into the all-female hostel, when a young Scottish girl checked in & off we went to dinner, rolling in at one in the morning, after an evening of non-stop chatting.



The Scott & I spent the first three days together, exploring Amsterdam.  On day one, we decided to familiarise ourselves with the area by going on a three hour 'free' walking tour, half of which I couldn't hear & subsequently ended in us being guilt-tripped into handing over a handful of our precious euros to the dutch tour guide.  I won't be making that mistake again.

We strolled round the red light district, attempting not to stare at the woman in windows or get run over by cyclists as we crossed the roads.  We took in the sights of wonky architecture & boats strolling down the canals.  Popping into all the beautiful stores in the nine streets area, I felt sad that I have no home to come back to & couldn't buy anything.  So many lovely things that would have gone so well in my house.




On one of the days, we visited the famous flower market, which was unfortunately, not as impressive as anticipated.  Tulip bulbs aren't really that photogenic.  Attempting to cover everything, we strolled around the Red Light District, Jordan area,  the Nine Streets & De Pijp.  By day three, there was nothing left to see, that didn't involve shelling out for a museum.




As I don't have space in my rucksack for souvenirs, I decided that the only suitable thing I could take from Amsterdam, bar the photos & the memories, was a tattoo.  So I had a small tattoo of the three crosses, which adorn everything in Amsterdam, done down the back of my arm, above my elbow.  I even made friends with the guy from the tattoo shop.




After a few evenings eating out, dodging the rain & enjoying each others company, the Scott checked out & flew back home.  I on the other hand, had been enjoying my time in Amsterdam a little too much & had failed to plan my next stop.  Forced to stay an extra two days, the weather beginning to sear, I began to feel trapped by the 'Dam.  Desperate to leave, I spent an entire day in my hostel, cooled by the air conditioning, whilst it was thirty degrees outside, furtively looking into flights, trains, boats, whatever was the cheapest, quickest route out.



As the light outside faded to darkness, I sighed in relief, at finally having booked my travels up until the middle of September.  I was finally going to be free of the 'Dam!  The following day was my last in Amsterdam & with no one to hang out with, I grabbed my books & headed into town.  Taking a thirty minute walk, I went down to Vondelpark & sat & watched the twenty something dogs, running around, playing with each other.  Mr Pig would never be that well behaved, he would be fighting with all of them!




A few hours spent in the park, I walked back up, went through Nine Streets, into Jordan, back into the Red Light District & then home to the hostel.  Some of the girls & I sat in the communal area & watched a few films & then at midnight I finally left to go to the airport.

Three days is enough time to cover Amsterdam.  I may have omitted to partake in the weed smoking & the cycling, which I'm sure would have added to the experience, but I did enjoy my time there, at least in the beginning.

x